“Truth will out.” So said Shylock’s servant, Lancelot Gobbo, in Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice. This is salutary to keep in mind when dealing with the lies and obfuscations of totalitarian regimes like China and Iran. The truth will come out, particularly concerning their incompetence in dealing with the spread of the coronavirus.
The mullahs seem much more inept than the Chinese Communist Party at maintaining their webs of deception. The facts of the ravaging impact of COvid-19 on the Persian people are now coming to light — even state-controlled media and regime officials are beginning to concede the truth. Despite wildly understated figures still being reported by official releases (just under 1,700 deaths, which even Dr. Richard Brennan, a director for the World Health Organization who just returned from an investigatory visit to Iran proposed was off by a factor of five), the full extent of the regime’s lies is now beginning to surface. For example:
- Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei declared that the first his government became aware the virus had appeared in the country was on Feb. 19th, when officials in Qom announced that two persons had died of the COvid-19. Evidence has recently surfaced that the leadership was informed of the appearance of the virus in Iran at least by the end of January, and perhaps even two weeks before that.
- As rumors spread among Iranians concerning the virus, the regime leadership continued to lie to the people in spite of the imminent danger of contagion, because of two national events (the 41st anniversary celebration of the founding of the Islamic Republic, and the national parliamentary elections) for which the mullahs wanted maximum public participation in order to continue the pretense of their legitimacy before the eyes of the world. In both cases, the people widely boycotted these events, primarily to express their disgust over the regime’s evil and ineptitude.
- Even after Khamenei admitted the obvious, that the coronavirus was spreading across the country, he downplayed its seriousness, saying on March 3rd that it was “not that big a deal,” “not something extraordinary,” and “an issue that will pass.” He also tweeted that day, “Our officials have reported with sincerity and transparency since day one,” a statement worthy of ten Pinocchios, were anyone outside Iran listening to him. It has since come to light that he had already ordered the IRGC (Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps), the regime’s equivalent of Hitler’s SS troops, to hospitals and morgues so as to ensure that infection rates and death tolls be reported only to the regime since this was “a matter of national security.” Any unauthorized reporting would result in public lashings and one to three years of imprisonment.
- At a briefing on Feb. 26th, Health Minister Saeed Namaki predicted, “The main peak of the coronavirus will be in next week and coming days.” President Hassan Rouhani reframed that timeline a few days ago, apparently saying as of March 16th that, “Based on the figures, we are past the peak of the disease….” The Health Minister since has said this is not the case and the peak may not be reached until April 8th at the earliest. Many health experts in Iran, however, are claiming that the epidemic is still spreading rapidly and it is still too early to make any accurate predictions, especially with people oblivious to warnings about social gatherings and ongoing travel. Some doctors in Tehran are predicting that by the first week of April up to forty percent of Tehran (up to five million people!) might be infected. Yesterday marked the traditional Persian New Year, Nowruz, and even though Khamenei issued a fatwa forbidding travel due to fears of contagion, Iranians are effectively ignoring him, preferring to get away from death and despondency to celebrate with family and friends at the beach or in the mountains.
- Though evidence pointed clearly to the pilgrimage city of Qom as the epicenter of the virus and the government was advised to close down the religious shrines by medical experts, the mullahs refused this advice and continued to welcome Iranian and international pilgrims. Some, such as Khamenei’s personal representative and head of the Fatima Masoumeh shrine in Qom, announced that this shrine was a place of healing and protection from all illness, including the coronavirus, and as a result, many visitors continued kissing and licking shrine premises as an expression of their faith. Finally, in recent days, the shrines around the country were officially closed, but riots by religious crowds resulted in some of them, including Masoumeh, to be reopened by force. As a result, due to governmental negligence the infectin was able to spread quickly through returning pilgrims to every province of Iran and to many Shi’ite communities in other countries. Now that the regime has changed its story and is telling citizens they need to avoid contact with crowds due to the coronavirus, people in Iran are irate as they see that their country is now in the grip of a contagion which will not soon end.
- With the start of the new year, Iran’s national budget for 2020 must be approved. Many are calling it an “imaginary” budget because it assumes income figures that have no basis in reality. The bulk of the government’s income results from the sale of oil internationally, but due to sanctions imposed by the USA and allies the government is able to sell only 200-300,000 barrels of oil daily. The budget relies on a figure ten times that amount. Additionally, it assumes a selling price of over $50 a barrel while the international market prices have plummeted to about half of that due to a price war between Saudi Arabia and Russia as well as coronavirus shutdowns which have depressed demand. Though Iran has been secretive about its solvency at 2019-20 year-end, it looks likely that its $5 billion mid-year deficit has only increased — out of a total budget of some $37 billion to run the country for the year. The 2020-21 budget presents the same level of figures, even though the government has long since squandered its last reserves and has little trickling in to its empty coffers. The Parliament was supposed to pass the “imaginary budget” sent to it by Khamenei’s office, but even these sycophants couldn’t stomach the deception and balked at voting for it. Khamenei then pulled it from parliamentary consideration and sent it directly to his hand-picked Guardian Council, who rubber-stamped it as the official budget moving forward. While poverty grips the country (over forty percent of Iranians live below the poverty line), President Rouhani recently boasted that the people of Iran have everything they need; there are no shortages of food and goods, and hospitals and citizens have complete access to medical necessities: gloves, masks, gowns, hand sanitizers, etc., while in reality doctors, nurses and other medical workers have been working unprotected for the last month in hospitals to save as many COvid-19 patients as they can. The fact that the regime has asked the International Monetary Fund for an emergency grant of $5 billion (over 13% of its entire annual budget!) “to fight the coronavirus” speaks volumes. The difference between government propaganda and the reality on the streets is so stark as to be laughable, if it weren’t so deadly. Any laughter is laced with bitterness.
- As of Sunday, March 22nd, the Johns Hopkins global coronavirus tracking website reported total deaths to date worldwide from the virus as 14,386. Of those, Iran’s official total stands at 1,685, meaning outside of Iran 12,701 have perished in this pandemic. However, the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK) with its extensive grassroots network in all 31 provinces of Iran gives a tally of over 9,600 deaths across 210 cities as of Sunday. If accurate, this would mean that Iran alone has lost 75% as many people as the rest of the world combined to the coronavirus. And the epidemic continues unchecked within the regime due to the mullahs’ incompetence and indifference. The story in Iran dwarfs that of Italy, China or any other country, yet because of tyrannical control of state media within Iran and of Western media torpor, little attention has been drawn to it. As infection rates and death totals there continue to soar, however, the criminality of the theocratic regime will finally become all to apparent. The truth will out.
- Lastly, to deflect from their deadly culpability, Khamenei, Rouhani and their henchmen have tried unsuccessfully to blame others, principally the United States. With absolutely no evidence, they have floated the lie that the coronavirus outbreak was the result of a covert U.S. bioterrorist attack. It originated in the holy city of Qom because the USA has always feared Shi’ite Islam and was attempting to destroy it from within. But, of course, Allah will protect his people and they will be victorious over the Great Satan. By mounting this specious defense, the regime hopes to rally its people against a common enemy and so turn attention away from its own cyclopean guilt. But the Persian people have seen iterations of this tactic so often that they are no longer fooled. The truth will out.
Although the rest of the world has yet to wise up concerning the malevolent criminality of Iran’s theocratic leaders, the Persian masses know that the mullahs can no longer be trusted, if they ever could. The light of truth shines not from the official news organizations of the state but from independent social media outlets. The regime seeks to throw its Stygian cloak over its malign behaviors and the consequent suffering of its unwitting victims, but the truth will out. It cannot be stopped. And when the truth is fully in the light, the regime will be toppled. It cannot come quickly enough.